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Battle of Bands packs in crowds and talent

Luna-hosted three-day event attracts 20 bands

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Battle of the Bands was everything it should be Tuesday night – electric guitarists wailed crowd-screaming solos, drummers twirled sticks in the air before smashing out killer beats and vocalists howled dancers into a frenzied hype.

From hard rock to punked reggae, garage bands commanded the stage like the rockstars they aspire to be.

The Tuesday battle was one evening in a three-night competition where bands and solo artists are duking it out for a recording package with Funk Studios, radio time on Mountain FM and the opening show for the King of the Rails. The final sonic skirmish plays out this Thursday, March 2 at 9 p.m. at MY Millennium Place, with the Best of Show Saturday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m. at Merlin’s.

Participating bands each competed for different reasons at the LUNA-hosted show: some looked for exposure, others for a recording package and one just for a stage.

Recording artists face many challenges – stiff competition, label searches, stretched resources – but the biggest challenge for Squamish’s Black Swade at this point is purely numbers.

You will usually hear the 13- and 14-year-old rockers, Luke Kyle, Alex Toews, Scott Verbeek, Liam Alvernini and Iain Rommel, playing at Gelato CORINA or the high school in Squamish.

They may be young, but the boys carry no illusions about the life of musicians.

"It’s about sex, drugs and rock and roll," said cocky bass player Alvernini.

"The band is going to need to find a new bass player," one of the parents warned.

Toews clarified: "Being in a band is about paying gigs and groupies."

Music is somewhere in there, with three original songs played out at the battle.

"We are mostly inspired by ’90s music: Audio Slave, the Chili Peppers, Metallica, Iron Maiden…" Alvernini said.

"Except we don’t sound anything like them yet," Kyle added – the term "yet" pointing to the possibilities awaiting the hard-working Mötley Crüe grasshoppers.

Making connections was a key component of Battle of the Bands. Black Swade secured an early set from 6:30 to 7 p.m. at the Battle of the Bands close out party at Merlin’s – the band’s first bar gig.

Other competitors are already well on their way to becoming working bands. Whistler’s Dub Empire is no stranger to the Boot and recently Bill’s. The punk-rock reggae troupe has their eyes set on the Battle’s recording package.

"We came out to play for fun and see what other music is out there," said frontman Matt Cullins.

"It would be cool to get a single song recorded, so we can say to bars, ‘Hey this is what we do.’ It would take it a step further than what we already have."

Other bands are still working the jam night and open mic rounds, readying for concert stages.

"We are just getting original sets out and trying to wean out covers," said Craig Jones of Mountain Man. "This was a great opportunity to get more exposure, especially the potential with Mountain FM."

Battle of the Bands is not just about opportunities for local bands, but for listeners as well, so check out the Thursday and Saturday night shows for an original, homegrown experience.

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